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Home Window Materials

Consumers have a growing number of options for window materials available to them and at a reasonable price too.

Material Options for Your Window:

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Wood Window Frames

Wood Window frame

Wood has been thel most used materials in window frames for residential housing. It's popularity derives much from its energy efficiency as it is one of the best insulating materials, as well as its natural attractive appearance. Wood frames are also good for intricate custom designs as they are easier to work with. As well you can stain or paint the wood for a desired look or further customization. Wood does requires more maintenance from the consumer. Sealant must be put on the wood fairly frequently to keep their energy efficiency at its best. If the wooden frame is not sealed then moisture can cause the wood to rot and deteriorate. Wood frames also need to be repainted occasionally as changes in the weather will cause any paint used to chip off.

Pros

  • Energy efficient
  • Custom design (wood finish, intricacy, stains, paint etc.)
  • Natural look

Cons

  • High maintenance
  • Wood rot if untreated with sealant and paint frequent enough

Aluminum Window Frames

Aluminum frames are lightweight and strong. They are good at maximizing window area because of their strength, and can hold large and heavy glass panes. Aluminum frames will not rust, and are offered with anodized finishes. Aluminum is a good thermal conductor, which is bad for cold climates as heat will be lost through the frame. Aluminum frames also allow for condensation to occur on the interior surface of the window. Higher quality aluminum frames will usually have thermal breaks which help insulate the frame and sash better. While these thermal breaks will help, heat could still be lost, making aluminum a less than ideal choice for cold climates.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Strong
  • No rust
  • Different anodized finishes
  • Little maintenance

Cons

  • Loses heat
  • Interior condensation

Fiberglass Window Frames

Fiberglass window

Fiberglass is a more recently available material in window frames. Fiberglass is strong allowing manufacturers to make hollow frames, which can be filled with insulation. Insulation filled fiberglass frames are very energy efficient, and are probably the most durable of the window frame materials. Fiberglass can withstand all the elements that windows have to go through, heat, cold, sunrays, insects, and even water. Frames made from fiberglass will not warp or corrode regardless of climate, and basically require no maintenance. You can paint them to any color you want, and they can hold large heavy panes of glass. The downside to fiberglass window frames is greater expense when compared to most other materials. They also have less of a proven track record for the long term given they are a newer material. The availability of these windows can also be an issue, as they are only manufactured by a few companies.

Pros

  • Strong
  • Durable
  • Energy efficient
  • Very little maintenance
  • Can hold heavy panes of glass

Cons

  • Fairly expensive
  • No long term track record
  • Not readily available everywhere

Vinyl Window Frames

Vinyl window frame

Vinyl is one of the more popular materials used in window frames today. It requires very little maintenance, and it is a flexible material allowing it to be put into various shaped and sized openings for window replacement. Vinyl windows are moderately energy efficient, though it can depend on the quality of window. They are durable as they will not warp, corrode, peel, or shrink, and they are fairly inexpensive. There is no need to paint vinyl because you can get it in a variety of colors and the color is through the entire material which helps reduce the visibility of any scratches. On the down side, vinyl frames are not very strong so it often looks bulkier since they can't be made as thin to support the windows. They are also limited to the size and weight they can hold for a window pane.

Pros

  • Flexible
  • Durable
  • Little maintenance
  • Inexpensive
  • Reduced scratch visibility
  • Wide variety of styles and colors
  • Moderately energy efficient

Cons

  • Weaker material
  • Limited to size and weight of window pane

Clad Window Frames

Clad window frame

Clad windows offer a great ’have your cake and eat it too’ alternative. Clad uses one material on the outside of the window frame and another on the inside. This allows a maintenance free material combined with the benefit of the warm look and feel of a wood frame. The two materials most used are aluminum and wood or vinyl and wood. It should be noted though that in rare occasions water can still leak in from the vinyl or aluminum material and cause the wood to rot on the inside.

Pros

  • Outside materials requires little maintenance
  • Warm and natural look with wood in interior
  • Durable outside
  • Improved energy efficiency with inside wood
  • Paint or stain to any color

Cons

  • If leaks occur the wood may rot

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